A leading car industry body has called on the government to “redouble efforts” to support the uptake of electric vehicles and improve charging infrastructure. The outgoing president of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) told members the industry would need government support to encourage the switch to electric cars.

Although SMMT data suggests a third of British-made cars now come with some form of electric or hybrid power – and more plug-in vehicles expected to be registered this year than in the last decade combined – the industry has claimed “key challenges” must still be met. In particular, the SMMT singled out charging infrastructure and business conditions as the main issues for the sector.

Kia Niro EV (e-Niro) fast charging at IONITY

In his speech at the 104th SMMT annual dinner, the body’s outgoing president and executive chairman, Dr George Gillespie OBE, said the industry would require government help to achieve decarbonisation goals.

“We have invested billions in designing some of the most amazing electrified vehicles,” he said. “Over 115 zero-emission-capable vehicle models are for sale in the UK right now. We have inspired the public to buy these exciting vehicles in numbers never seen before, but here is the twist. It is so frustrating to find broken chargers, blocked chargers, multiple apps, confusing payment schemes. This is quickly going to turn a lot of people off electric vehicles and all our work in developing these fantastic vehicles will be wasted.

“We need access to skilled staff. We need free access to markets. We need the right government incentives to develop new technologies and continue to lead the world and help to deal with rising transport and energy costs.”

Among its gripes about business conditions in the UK at present, the SMMT has said the global shortage of semiconductors is currently “decimating” output while high energy prices, uncompetitive business rates and additional trade costs are also hindering UK businesses. The organisation claims “long-term strategies” are needed to address these problems, and “close collaboration” between industry and government will be “critical” to maintain the sector’s competitiveness.

Mike Hawes, the SMMT’s chief executive, said the government would need to “create the conditions” that would accelerate the installation of infrastructure across the UK.

“This industry does ‘delivery’,” he said. “We will decarbonise road transport – cars by 2035, buses likely earlier, HGVs likely only a bit later. But as EV sales race ahead, on-street charging infrastructure is increasing slowly. We look to government to create the conditions – maybe mandate the conditions – to accelerate the infrastructure across the country as we need others to match our speed.”